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All the Wrong People Have Self-Esteem (Yom Kippur Kavanah)

09/21/2018 08:13:45 PM


Hannah Orden

          There are some good things about growing older.  Granted, you develop all kinds of aches and pains, and your memory starts to go, and you don’t even realize your hearing is declining until your husband says something in an undertone and even though he’s standing right next to y+ou, you have to ask him to repeat it, but your daughter in the next room with the fan going hears every word!

          But never mind all that, because you get to be a member of AARP.  You don’t even know why you’ve joined because you are not retired, but they start sending you invitations when you turn 50 so by the time you are 60, they have worn you down and you sign up, which means you get the AARP bulletin and have one more thing to add to the pile in your kitchen of things you are never going to read.

          By this time, you are probably wondering what on earth this has to with Yom Kippur, which is a fair question, and here is my answer: I took that pile from my kitchen when we went on vacation, and I read a bunch of things while eating breakfast in a beautiful place.  I even read the summer issue of the AARP bulletin.  In the bulletin, there was an interview with David Sedaris, whom I love.  He is a very funny man, who is self-deprecating in the most endearing way.  One quote in the interview made me laugh out loud, and I thought it was perfect for Yom Kippur.  He says: “My brother Paul praises his daughter for everything she does.  Look at how awesome Madeline is, he’ll say. she raised her fork to her mouth!”  David Sedaris says he is not sure that really does any good.  He says: “I have a friend who is going to write a book called All the Wrong People Have Self-Esteem.  It’s true!”  Sedaris says, “I think self-esteem is overrated.  I think a certain degree of self-loathing is good.  If you are going to push yourself and continue to grow, I think you need a really healthy amount of self-doubt.”

          I have to say I found this perspective very refreshing.  Every year around the High Holidays, I pray that in the new year I will let go of self-doubt and be more confident.  I start in Elul, the month of spiritual preparation, leading up to Rosh Hashanah, and I keep praying all the way through Yom Kippur.  Then the next year I start again. But this year, after what David Sedaris said, I thought: What if instead of beating myself up each year, which doesn’t seem to be doing much good, what if I figured out how to welcome self-doubt, even celebrate a healthy amount of it, and try to use it as a tool to help me grow.

          And then I thought, maybe that is what Yom Kippur is all about – taking our self-doubt out of the shadows, letting it have a day to go crazy – a day to look at all the things that are wrong with us, a day to beat our breasts, and not try to hide or cover up our many, many faults.  And then we can take all that self-doubt and turn it into a challenge – How can I use a certain amount of self-doubt to help me grow in the coming year?

Fri, February 28 2020 3 Adar 5780